November 2, 2009

Is the printed book nearing end-of-life?

Filed under: Books, Media, Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 08:59

Terry Teachout considers the wonders of the printed book and contemplates its looming obsolescence:

Regular readers of this blog know that I believe the printed book to be well on its way to ultimate extinction. As I put it in a “Sightings” column written in 2006, a year before the introduction of the Kindle:

The printed book is a beautiful object, “elegant” in both the aesthetic and mathematical senses of the word, and its invention was a pivotal moment in the history of Western culture. But it is also a technology — a means, not an end. Like all technologies, it has a finite lifespan, and its time is almost up.

On the other hand, I have yet to buy a Kindle, and at the moment I have no plans to do so. This is partly because I prefer to wait until the kinks are ironed out (I’ve never been a truly early adopter) and partly because, like most middle-aged authors, I remain enamored of the sheer physicality of the old-fashioned printed book.

[. . .]

So am I really a closet Luddite, a technological Moses who can’t bring himself to enter the promised land of the e-book? Maybe. Six years ago I declared myself to be “open, at least in theory, to the possibility of abandoning the book-as-art-object.” Now that technology has finally caught up with me, I find myself unexpectedly unwilling to put my money where my mouth is. Yet I believe no less firmly than ever that the printed book is a technology whose time has come and gone. Am I, then, a hypocrite? Or merely a middle-aged man who, like most middle-aged men, is reluctant to put aside the youthful things that remind me of myself when young?

I find myself in the same position as Terry . . . I’m not a leading edge early adopter, but I’ve been eager to “get to the future faster” for most of my life. I still remember Usenet when it was “the internet” as far as most people were concerned. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t consider my email far more important and urgent than “snail mail”, and I was a fan of “telecommuting” back when 2400 baud was “high speed”.

And yet . . . I don’t want to give up the book. I just got back from a book-buying spree in Stratford over the weekend, and don’t plan on buying a Kindle any time soon. I’ve got ebooks on my iPhone, but I consider them “emergency” reading material . . . when I don’t have a physical book to hand.

Am I also a luddite?

I hasten to point out that I no longer own any long-playing records or cassettes, and that I spend more time listening to music on my MacBook and iPod than on my CD player. No doubt the time will also come when I spend more time reading books on a Kindle, or something like it, than reading the handsomely bound volumes shelved in my living room. Not for me the self-conscious posturing of those curmudgeonly poseurs who wail Change and decay in all around I see! at every opportunity.

I had largely gotten out of the habit of listening to music until I got my iPhone last year. Since then, I’ve bought more CDs and MP3s than in the ten years before. I’ve still got a few vinyl LPs and a large collection of cassettes, but they’re just gathering dust.

UAV market increases for Israeli manufacturer

Filed under: Australia, Cancon, Middle East, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:39

The American Predator UAV is selling very well — but the manufacturer can’t keep up with current domestic demand, so other nations are adopting the Israeli Heron as a worthwhile alternative:

Australian troops in Afghanistan begun using Israeli Heron UAVs two months ago. Last July, Australian troops went to Canada to receive training on the Heron, which Canadian troops have also adopted. Canada received its first Heron about a year ago. This model of the Heron is very similar to the 1.1 ton U.S. Predator. This Heron has a 500 pound payload capacity and can stay in the air for more than 24 hours per sortie. While Australia and Germany are buying its Herons, Canada is leasing them.

Last year, Canada also ordered half a dozen of the larger Israeli Heron TP UAVs. Equipped with a powerful (1,200 horsepower) turbo prop engine, the 4.6 ton aircraft can operate at 45,000 feet. That is, above commercial air traffic, and all the air-traffic-control regulations that discourage, and often forbid, UAV use at the same altitude as commercial aircraft. The Heron TP has a one ton payload, enabling it to carry sensors that can give a detailed view of what’s on the ground, even from that high up. The endurance of 36 hours makes the Heron TP a competitor for the U.S. MQ-9 Reaper (or Predator B), which is the same size as Heron.

Ford reaps financial benefit from not joining Government Motors

Filed under: Economics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:18

The New York Times has the unexpectedly positive financial news from Ford:

The Ford Motor Company on Monday posted a surprise third-quarter profit of $997 million and said it had its first profitable quarter in North America in more than four years.

The carmaker also said it increased its cash reserves by $2.8 billion during the quarter, ending September with $23.8 billion.

For all of 2009, Ford, the only Detroit automaker to avoid bankruptcy this year, has had a profit of more than $1.8 billion. It reported $834 million of income in the first half of the year.

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